The engine found inside a vehicle usually receives a name based on some sort of manufacturer specific numbering and lettering convention. However, every once in a while a manufacturer will feel a little fiery and give that new hunk of metal an actual, proper name.
These names, more often than not, conjure up images of power and hairy-chested strength. Names like Rocket 350, BOSS and Fireball. Or, sometimes the name will refer to the design of the engine itself like Hemi (referring to hemispherical combustion chambers) or Quad-4, which is a dumb name in itself, but at least referred to four valves on four cylinders.
But now and then, a manufacturer will reveal their latest and greatest engineer marvel and slap on a name that leaves us scratching our heads in disbelief, or is just so pretentious our eyes can’t stop rolling. Remember the have-your-cake-and-eat-it-to named Ford inline-6 called the ‘Thriftpower’? Well, that didn’t even make this list.
Starting our list is the Ford Vulcan V6. Chances are you or someone you know owned a vehicle with a Vulcan engine, as it was very popular in many a front-wheel drive Ford from 1986-2008. Although rumor has it the name was chosen in homage to the mythological Roman god of fire and iron-working (it was an iron block engine after all), we really think there were a few Trekkies working in the R&D department when this engine was created. Keep your eyes peeled for the Ford Borg Inline-Four.
OK, this was never the official name of the Inline-6 engine from Chevrolet, but due to the slotted-head bolts used in the engine that resembled those used in wood burning stoves, the nickname cometh. We are not sure if Chevrolet liked this connotation or not, but there are a lot of worse household mechanical items it could have been named after; at least it wasn’t the ‘Toilet Anchor Six’ or ‘Sewage Clamp Six’.
Photo Courtesy of Flickr user OSX
Pretentious name shamelessly conjuring up images of green living and clean air? Check. Is it the worst offender of this crime? Negative; that engine arrives later in our top 10 – much later.
When BMW revived the MINI brand with the new Cooper in 2001, they went all-in when it came to bastardizing British culture. Union Jacks on the roof and countless special editions named after various regions in the U.K. were not enough. Time came to produce a new engine for the MINI in 2004, and of course it was called the ‘Prince’. We are surprised they didn’t go all-out and call it the Prince William or Prince Charles.
Is ‘Prince’ not a manly enough monarchical name for you? How about a burly Duke then? Not just any Duke either, but an Iron Duke! Pontiac slapped this macho name on its iron block 2.5L four cylinder engine, which immediately became endearing to many; the name that is, not the engine.
We know. This engine was named after its inventor, Felix Wankel. And being a German, maybe he was unaware of how close his last name was to the British put-down term ‘Wanker’. Either way, those with a grasp of the English language have a hard time not thinking of Wanker when they hear Wankel.
This engine gets special mention for having two ridiculous names. First, the official name of CoBra, which stands for the engines manufacturing process of being COpper BRAzed, needs no explanation of ‘when capitalization goes wrong’. But if that were not enough, this engine also features the nickname of ‘The Mighty Tin’.
Photo Courtesy of Flickr user Bencmq
What is it with the names of these heavy duty diesel pickup truck engines that sends our minds directly to the gutter? Maybe we’re just immature. What about Powerstroke? Duramax? Jeez.
In 1987, BMW began mulling the idea of stuffing a 6.7L V16 engine into a 7 Series as a special sporty model, complete with a 6-speed manual transmission. So, what do you call this 16-cylinder fire breathing, fuel burning monster? Why ‘Project Goldfish’ of course. Perhaps the engine name ‘Hamster’ was already taken.
Setting new levels of pretension, and being a definitively un-catchy name, we have the Honda Earth Dreams. Sure green is in right now, and this new V6 is fairly efficient, but it’s highly doubtful that if the earth could dream, it would dream about a mechanical appliance forged out of precious, non-renewable resources, consuming other non-renewable resources. That would be more of an Earth Nightmare; quick someone sell that name to Bugatti.